9. Noreaga - N.O.R.E.
His talent was evident on CNN albums, but Nore used the platform of his self-titled debut CD to show his range of rhyming capabilities.
8. Juvenile - 400 Degreez
A combination of Juvie's melodic flow and Cash Money's high-end production made 400 Degreez a Southern rap favorite in 1998.
7. DMX - Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
Thanks in part to X's emotion-laden lyrics, Flesh debuted at No.1 on Billboard, making him only the 2nd rapper to top the chart twice in one year.
6. Big Pun - Capital Punishment
Pun dazzled with his larger-than-life debut, which boasts hits like "Still Not a Player" and "You Ain't a Killer."
5. Black Star - Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star
With a mic in one hand and The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey in the other, Mos and Kweli excelled with their consciousness revivalism form of hip-hop.
4. DMX - It's Dark & Hell Is Hot
DMX's recent run-ins with the law make it easy to take for granted his contributions to hip-hop. In retrospect, his vivid personal lyricism stands as remarkably precocious.
3. OutKast - Aquemini
Aquemini showed just how much Boi and Dre loved reinventing their sound. Laced by harmonica, acoustic guitar, and a splice of electro, Aquemini moved the OutKast sound forward.
2. Gang Starr - Moment of Truth
Fresh off a 4-year hiatus, Gang Starr fans were delighted to see the legendary duo deliver another epic album.
1. Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
On Miseducation, Lauryn offered the best fusion of rap and R&B hip-hop's ever known. Her stellar songwriting flourished from song to song, whether grappling with spirituality ("Final Hour," "Forgive Them, Father") or stroking sexuality without exploiting it ("Nothing Even Matters"). Like Lyte before her, Lauryn excelled without drawing unnecessary attention to her sexual ambiance.